Themes from Field Service Connect Austin | Future of Field Service
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Themes from Field Service Connect Austin

By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service 

My lucky streak of relatively smooth travel this year ended last week with my trip to Austin to attend Field Service Connect. Despite a delayed arrival, the event was enjoyable. This is one of WBR’s intentionally small sessions, which creates a lot of lively dialogue. I am sometimes asked if I ever bore of attending these events, and the dialogue is what allows me to answer that question with an honest “no.”

I know the mainstage topics by heart, that’s true. And there are times where I feel a deep urge to really shake things up, which I try to do in my own way. But the dialogue, the side conversations, the layers of detail are where I find the really interesting nuggets that keep me engaged, invested, and passionate about where this industry is headed. 

So, what stuck out from Field Service Connect? I had an opportunity to host a roundtable discussion on opportunities within service to drive sustainability and moderate a panel alongside Roy Dockery of Flock Safety, Haroon Abbu of Bell and Howell, and Curtis Novinger of P3 on what it takes for businesses to create a digitally focused identity. 

Driving More Sustainable Service 

The sustainability discussion raised some good points of consideration. Participants mostly reported their organizations as having a “medium” level of focus on sustainability, but all agreed that the level of focus will inevitably need to increase in the next few years. Some of the top-of-mind topics for those who participated included:

  • That while environmental initiatives are getting more attention, they haven’t yet begun to factor into decision making 
  • Putting practices in place to measure and track environmental impact – only two of thirteen companies participating do so currently
  • Awareness of looming changes in policy and regulatory pressures. The US lags behind Europe in how sustainability is being measured and improvements driven, but nearly everyone expects that will come soon
  • How to lower waste and improve recycling, reuse, and remanufacturing
  • What role remote service can play in alleviating unnecessary travel and reducing carbon footprint – and the challenges of adoption, customer acceptance, and how to monetize remote service vs. traditional break-fix
  • How Servitization lends itself to more sustainable product and service practices
  • Greening of fleets – discussion around how practical the use of electric vehicles currently is for commercial fleets in terms of availability, cost, infrastructure to support, and practicalities of how employees would access and use 

Overcoming the Burden of Digital Debt

During our panel discussion, we focused a lot of the discussion around a metric that Curtis had shared in his morning presentation from McKinsey stating that 70% of digital transformation efforts fail. In considering why this is and how to combat common missteps, we talked first about how investment decisions within the businesses are made. While most decisions are driven by either an opportunity to reduce cost or increase revenue, there’s a category of investments that need to be made of necessity and/or disruption. 

This brought up the topic of digital debt, where Roy shared that at Flock Safety, they have an issue of having almost too many tools in use, some of which aren’t effective. Taking the time, and spending the money, to streamline, improve, and re-introduce technology is something companies often don’t do because they see those dollars as already spent and a thing of the past. While that’s true, if your existing systems aren’t effective and driving value, you cannot simply forge ahead or layer new things on top – you must face the burden of that digital debt and do the work of creating an effective digital stack. 

We also talked about the role of leadership in driving success with Digital Transformation and other forms of innovation. Haroon spoke about the importance of having leadership who is technology adept, but not to the point of being too technically “in the weeds,” who also deeply understands the business and it’s needs to work on creating a true digital strategy and roadmap as well as owning much of the process and continual improvement. Businesses who are investing in leaders to drive innovation, versus expecting leaders with responsibility for the day-to-day business to also find time to innovate, seem to be much further ahead. This also helps in breaking down siloes, which is one of the most common reasons digital transformation efforts fail. 

These were just two of many excellent topics discussed at the event. Sessions around AI, augmented reality, As-a-Service, attracting talent, company culture and people centricity, effective communication and much more rounded out the agenda and gave today’s service leaders an opportunity to share what they’re learning, working toward, and struggling with.